Engineering plastics are a group of plastic materials with better mechanical and thermal properties than general-purpose plastics like polystyrene, PVC, or PET. The engineering plastics are used in applications requiring improved properties, such as automotive, aerospace, and electrical engineering.
The most common engineering plastics are polyamides, polycarbonates, fluoropolymers, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. The term “engineering plastic” covers various semi-crystalline and amorphous thermoplastic materials with various properties. Engineering plastics are generally strong, stiff, high heat resistance, density, tensile strength, and thermal conductivity.
What makes them a favorite of plastic engineers is their applicability. They are used in almost everything we consume these days.
They are also often resistant to chemicals and wear. The specific properties of an engineering plastic depend on its chemical structure, which is determined by the types of monomers used to make the polymer. The most common engineering plastics are polyamides, polycarbonates, fluoropolymers, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Polyamides are a group of engineering plastics that is also called Nylon.
Nylon 6 and nylon 6,6 are the two most common types of nylon. Nylon 6 is made from a single monomer, while nylon 6,6 is made from two monomers. Nylon 6 is stronger and stiffer than nylon 6,6, but nylon 6,6 has higher heat resistance.
Nylon is used in various applications, including as a replacement for metal in some automotive parts, textile manufacturing, and 3D printing. Polycarbonates are a group of engineering plastics that includes the well-known plastic Lexan. Polycarbonates are made from bisphenol A and carbonate monomers. They are clear, tough, and have high heat resistance.
Nylon is also a very popular textile material with which I know you are all familiar. Nylon production increased from 3.74 million tonnes in 1990 to 5.4 million tonnes in 2018, with around a 5% market share of the global fiber production market. Simple to make for manufacturers and easy maintenance for consumers, coupled with low cost, made it a go-to cloth material for everybody.
Polycarbonates are used in various applications, including bullet-proof glass, food packaging, and medical devices. Fluoropolymers are a group of engineering plastics that includes the well-known plastic Teflon. They are made from fluorine and carbon monomers. Fluoropolymers are very non-reactive and have a very low coefficient of friction.
They are used in various applications requiring these properties, such as in non-stick cookware, medical implants, and as a coating for electrical wires. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS is a terpolymer, meaning it is made from three monomers. It is made from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. ABS is a stiff plastic with high heat resistance. It is used in various applications, including 3D printing, automotive engineering, and electronic enclosures.